As one of the most successful managers in the modern game, Jose Mourinho has made a habit of accepting every challenge that comes his way and inevitably conquering them.
Having already won domestic league titles in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain – plus two UEFA Champions League trophies – the Special One took his place on the Manchester United throne this summer for another assualt on the Premier League and, inevitably, the European Cup, too.
However, before taking the reins at Old Trafford this summer, Jose was asked to make his acting debut for Heineken's new TV spot in aid of their Champions League campaign. Directed by Guy Ritchie, the film sees Mourinho delivering a 'Prep Talk' to fans ahead of the new season. It's a wildly different setting from Mourinho's post-match interview comfort zone, but he didn't shirk at the challenge.
Ahead of the new Champions League season, we sat down with Jose Mourinho in Manchester to talk about the psychology of team talks, the key to inspiration and how it feels to be the star of yet another show.
COMPLEX: You’re pretty used to being a master in your own field, how was it to make your acting debut in a project directed by Guy Ritchie, who is a master in his?
Jose Mourinho: To be honest, when I had the script in my hands I was a little bit scared – it was too much for me! I used to do some commercials but not so complex, not so difficult. I met Guy at his house and he was a great coach because he gave me a good feeling and told me how he could help me to improve.
It was a period where I wasn’t working and I could dedicate myself to the project. I went to Prague – I was in Prague for two days – and I wasn’t under pressure with timing, I didn’t have to rush back to England and work. I was relaxed so if things weren’t going well and if I needed to stay one more day I’d stay one more day, but Guy really taught me a lot. I felt motivated to work with him and all credit – if people consider this project good – is for him and the ones that worked around us.
In terms of preparing yourself for this project, did you look at any actors or characters for inspiration to deliver your ‘prep talk’?
No, not at all. Obviously, everyone involved in sport remembers Al Pacino’s talk from Any Given Sunday but I work in professional football, not movies so I wasn’t going to borrow anything from that.
The talk you deliver in the film is very passionate and quite loud. How closely does that resemble your style of team talk on a match day?
Some words are important. I’m sure I can find some of the words from the script in my pre-match talks. Obviously, the Heineken commercial is more theatrical – I had to act and bring emotions to an even higher level – but in a dressing room, I’m not talking to the world. I’m just speaking to twenty guys.
But there’s always key words, a word like ‘sacrifice’ – that’s an important word in football and the players must feel it and understand, they play in difficult circumstances. They must play tired, they must play through pain, they must play through injuries. They must play when they’re losing, and trying to rescue a result. They have to play with ten men. That word ‘sacrifice’ is probably the one that most belongs to my day-to-day life.
Could you name the most important team talk you’ve given in your career?
It’s difficult. Most of them are actually more from a tactical point of view, where you’re trying to influence the game and the decisions players are making. Then of course, there are moments that are more about leadership and motivation – in so many matches, so many semi-finals, so many finals – sometimes I have to go directly to the heart and make my words more emotional.
When you deliver these talks, you’re really there to inspire your players. What were you inspired by as you were growing up?
I was obsessed with football. As a kid, my love was football. I went to school because I had to go to school and I realised I needed it, but I was just focused on football. My life has been football since I can remember.
"Paul [Pogba] is one of the happiest guys I’ve found in football, He’s a guy in love with life."
I did spot you at Anthony Joshua’s title-winning fight at the O2 Arena earlier this year. Is boxing another love of yours?
Yes, I like it very much. I was invited to go and I actually wasn’t too sure about going because I didn’t want to be a disturbance – but I went and he won and everyone was happy. He’s fantastic and it was great to share that emotion with him, because sport is all the same – when you win, it’s absolutely magic.
Any athlete or sportsperson will tell you that a key to success is having time to recover and reset. In those rare moments that you’re not thinking about football, what do you do to switch off?
I rest, I disconnect. When I disconnect from football, I’m fine. Then I might watch a movie and to be honest, I like some TV series because you get episodes in 50 minutes to one hour, and that’s enough to manage. I’m currently watching one that’s quite funny about football – but not our football – called Ballers with the big guy, Dwayne Johnson. It’s great because it represents the world of management and agents well, the business side of sport.
The biggest news of the summer was the arrival of Paul Pogba at Manchester United. What have your first impressions of Paul been?
Paul is one of the happiest guys I’ve found in football, that was my immediate impression. He’s a guy in love with life, in love with who he is and he enjoys so much being the star that he is. He’s a great, great boy.
You launched your Instagram a few months ago. How did it feel to share a part of your professional and private life that’s never really been on view before?
It was fun. It was new for me and of course I have my daughter and son with lots of social media, I got the feeling of it. But it was my first time to be in contact with people like that – many of them fans, others are people who have lots of respect for me…and some the opposite!
It was a great way to understand the dynamic of social media and to put myself in the skin of some of my young players, to see how important it is for them.
Jose Mourinho and Heineken are getting fans around the world prepped for the new UEFA Champions League season. Watch Jose's Prep Talk here.